A play by William Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Ashlie Atkinson, Michelle Beck, Christian Camargo, Stephen Dillane, Alvin Epstein, Juliet Rylance, Thomas Sadoski, Michael Thomas
Performances through March 13, 2010
BAM Harvey Theater--651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
In Sam Mendes’ staging of As You Like It at BAM, Juliet Rylance’s Rosalind is rightly the focus, although she doesn’t emphasize the gawky femininity of Shakespeare’s wittiest female character, even in her gender-bending disguise, as a ravishing Rebecca Hall did in her father Peter’s 2003 production (which also played BAM).
Of the Brits, Stephen Dillane—who later this month plays Prospero in the Bridge Project’s The Tempest—is a devastatingly funny Jaques, the melancholy lord who wanders in and out of the play at will as he wittily philosophizes, e.g., the famous “Seven Ages of Man” speech. Of actors doing double duty, Michael Thomas is both a strongly villainous Duke Frederick—who banishes his niece Rosalind and allows his daughter Celia and clown Touchstone to leave with her—and a gentle, goodhearted Duke Senior, Frederick’s brother and Rosalind’s father, who was exiled to Arden with his court.
On the Yanks’ side, there’s slightly less harmony. As Orlando, Christian Camargo physically fills the bill and speaks well, but his one-dimensional manner renders him dull. Alvin Epstein easily bounces between Orlando’s faithful servant Adam and the buffoonish Sir Oliver Martext, but Ashlie Atkinson makes a disastrous Phoebe, mercilessly mugging like no one else onstage does. Happily, Thomas Sadoski’s Touchstone is a fully realized comic creation: it’s heartening that a Shakespearean clown clowns around as Shakespeare wrote the part, not as a director and actor hope audiences will split their sides over.
Paul Pyant’s magisterial lighting, Tom Piper’s evocative set and Catherine Zuber’s genial costumes cleverly convey the gradual shift from wintry to summery states, both physical and emotional. Mark Bennett’s music, although well-performed and decently-sung, is nowhere near as memorable as, say, William Walton’s extraordinary orchestral accompaniment. Mendes’ first three Bridge Project productions, while flawed, are nonetheless heartily welcomed. I look forward to his upcoming Tempest.
originally posted on timessquare.com